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NELL GARDNER MILLS was admitted to Broughton Hospital, Morganton, Burke County North Carolina on January 12, 1909. She was 23 years old at the time of her admission, and the mother of three young daughters. The names of her parents did not appear on the hospital's admission records. However, her brother, J.A. Gardner, was cited as the family contact and it is probable, though not proven, that J.A. was responsible for having Nell committed to Broughton. It also appears that both J.A. and his sister, Cora Gardner, assumed a degree of responsibility for their three young nieces after Nell's admission.

Nell's diagnosis at the time of admission was Dementia Praecox, and a schizophrenic state called Hebephrenic (derived from Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth and spring?) which manifests itself in foolish mannerisms, delusions, hallucinations and regressive behavior. It is probable that this condition exists in the Gardner gene pool, (at least the Goddess of Youth and Spring part). Nell's youngest daughter, Laura Mills, exhibited similar behaviors which were neither diagnosed nor considered serious enough to warrant her being institutionalized. In 1950, Nell's cousin, Cosmos P. Gardner was also admitted as a patient to Broughton Hospital as a result of a stroke. One is forced to wonder if they "knew" one another, or engaged in coherent conversation over tea and cookies on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Nell died at Broughton Hospital on 28 May 1953 at the age of 67. Her death certificate cites no family relationship to the P. McDuffy Gardner family of Cleveland County NC. One wonders if this oversight was due to ignorance or intention. (It did not "do" in that day and age to have a "mad woman" about.) However, there is sufficient documentation to confirm Nell's relationship to P. McDuffy and Mary Ellen Barnes Gardner. She is buried near her parents in the Gardner family plot in Gastonia, North Carolina.

NOTE: While locating Nell's burial site is another story for another time, let it suffice to say that this memorable discovery was due in large part to the efforts of Rufus Gardner's great granddaughter, M. Masten of Shelby, North Carolina who refuses to recognize "I give up!" as a viable option in any endeavor.

CLAUDE J. MILLS, born 7 April 1883 in Mooresville, Iredell, North Carolina, was the son of Frank G. Mills and Laura Ann Brawley. A charming, dapper fellow, Claude took God at His word when He commanded His people to go forth and multiply, siring eight daughters by three wives.

Not all succumbed to his charms, however, for this Mountain Music Man was intensely disliked by the Gardner family, and did little to endear himself to them when he impregnated their young daughter, Nell, prior to a formal wedding ceremony. Their marriage in December of 1902 resulted in the birth of their first daughter, Myrtle, a mere six months later. Research indicates Myrtle was not a preemie.

Nell bore Claude two more daughters, the youngest born six months after her admission to Broughton Hospital, Burke County NC in January of 1909. Shortly thereafter, the children went to live with their paternal grandparents, Frank and Laura Brawley Mills. In 1912, they were taken to the Baptist Children's Home, Thomasville, North Carolina, by Claude's sister-in-law, Cora Gardner.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Claude was busy marrying his second wife, Gertrude Watson of Danville, Virginia. Unfortunately, he neglected to divorce Nellie prior to this second marriage. Once Gertrude discovered her husband's oversight, she legally terminated the union but not before blessing it with three more daughters: Erma Mills Adair, Claudia Mills Howe, and Sylvia Mills Adair. Ever the optimist, Claude married once again, and perhaps illegally (once again!). Lila Horne Mills brought a daughter into the marriage and then sanctified it with two more daughters: Faye Mills McDuffy and Janet Mills Wiggins. Certainly no shortage of X chromosomes in Claude's genes!

Admission records from Baptist Children's Home cite Claude as being of "bad" moral character as well as "intemperate." While the informant was a Gardner, and thus slightly biased, this is probably an accurate assessment. There is no indication that Claude sired any sons during his productive years which might lead some to conclude there is indeed justice on earth.

Claude died 12 February 1954 in Rockingham NC, and is buried in the Richmond Memorial Park Cemetery next to his third wife, Lila.

VIVIENNE VENONA GARDNER. Sometimes spelled Vivian, she was a positively beautiful girl and woman. Her cousin, Fred, said she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. She had brown wavy hair and soft brown eyes, and never got over 5'2". When she was born, the doctor must have twisted her neck as she always had a stiff neck on the left side and had to turn her body to see to the left. As Willie Shuford Gardner was a wonderful seamstress, Viv was always dressed in lovely frocks of satins, linens, and velvets, where other children wore rough calico. Surprisingly, she had a loving relationship with her brother, Dewey. She was very vain, Willie was very vain, and I am afraid, Marilynn has inherited that little fault, but since Marilynn is writing this, she's not at all sure it is a fault. Conceit is something else. We are not conceited.

She was very artistic and went to an art school in New York City, coming home with a "bob" (short hair), wearing (gasp!) knickers, and (gasp!) make-up and (gasp!) smoking cigarettes. She told Marilynn once she only did that to shock the folks back home and Marilynn thought "Hmm. So that's where I get that!" She learned to tint photos which was much in demand before color film.

She and Webb's father met at a McClellan's store which he managed and were married in Gastonia and soon moved to Hickory, North Carolina. They managed the store there together until Patricia was born in 1925. Soon after they moved to New Jersey where he took the ferry to New Yoyk City each day, working for an insurance company, and selling real estate with his brother, Seymour.

There Webb was born. She kept the greatest baby books I have ever seen and seemed to enjoy being a mother and wife. After they moved to Stamford, Connecticut, the depression hit and Webb's father got cancer and died when Webb was only 9 and Pat was 12. It must have been very hard for her, but she went to work in Grant's Department store and never remarried until Webb and Jean married. She then married Fred Lozier and moved to Arizona.

I envied Webb and Pat having such a sweet, charming (old-south gentlewoman charming)mother for she seemed to be so together about everything whereas my mother flew off in all directions about nothing. She was the typical southern belle.

Her husband died and she married Lou Bremer. They moved to Arkansas but she missed Arizona and always wanted to return. She had a few little strokes which affected her memory a bit and then she died, willing her body to science. What a sweetheart she was!


MYRTLE MILLS HARBIN. Myrtle, eldest daughter of Claude Mills and Nellie Gardner Mills, was born in June of 1902. By the age of ten, she had lost her mother to mental illness and her father to another woman, yet remained steadfast in her determination to care for her sisters in her mother's absence. Her time at The Baptist Children's Home in Thomasville appears to have been a positive experience for her as evidenced in follow up articles which appeared in BCH's newsletter after the girls had left the Home.

6 June 1940, Thomasville NC.
While in Charlotte recently, Mrs. Greer, the good wife of our General Superintendent, had the pleasure of seeing and talking with Mrs. H.J. Harbin, better known to many of us as Myrtle Mills. Mrs. Green informs us that Myrtle is getting along fine. During her conversation with Myrtle, Mrs. Greer learned that myrtle's sister Audrey (Mrs. B.R. Russell) had underwent an appendix operation in one of the Charlotte hospitals. We are thankful to state that Audrey's operation was a successful one and that she is now recuperating. Myrtle Mills Harbin and Audrey Mills Russel are two fine young ladies and we are proud that they are members of our group.

2 August 1945, Thomasville NC.
Mrs. Britton, during her recent confinement in the infirmary, heard from a number of the girls who have gone out, among them a letter from Mrs. J. H. Harbin, Myrtle Mills, of 411 Sylvania Avenue, Charlotte. She promised to come to pay us a visit soon and bring along some of the other girls who live in Charlotte.

4 April 1946, Thomasville NC.
Mrs. R.R. Russell (Audrey Mills) and her husband who reside on Sunnyside Avenue, Charlotte, and Mrs. H.J. Harbin (Myrtle Mills) and son Joe who reside on Charlotte's Sylvania Avenue, were visitors at Mills Home the week-end of March 31st. Audrey and Myrtle are indeed loyal to their childhood home--Mills Home.

12 May 1949, Thomasville NC.
A letter recently received by friends at Mills Home from Mrs. H.J. Harbin (Myrtle Mills) of Charlotte conveyed the following tribute to the late Mrs. Lettie Britton who for more than a quarter of a century served Mills Home so faithfully as matron of the larger girls cottage:

"I thought the tribute to Mrs. Britton which appeared in CHARITY AND CHILDREN was a very fitting one and a fine account of her work and loyalty to Mills Home. I along with hundred of others are so very proud to have known such a person and treasure the memory of having been one of Mrs. Britton's girls at West Chowan building. All who knew her for the sincere person she was, have lost a dear friend."

LAURA MILLS GALLAGHER (1909-1975) was small in stature, with dark hair and eyes, possibly of Cherokee descent. She was an attractive, shy, emotionally challenged woman addicted to coffee, cigarettes and baby-making. At the age of three, she and her two sisters, Myrtle and Audrey, were taken to the Baptist Children's Home in Thomasville, NC by their aunt, Cora Gardner, where they would remain until young adulthood. The records at BCH indicate they were living with their grandparents prior to admission. It is assumed these to be their paternal grandparents, Frank and Laura Ann Brawley Mills since both Gardners were deceased. Frank and Laura would have been in, or approaching, their 60's at the time the children came to live with them.

Little is known about Laura's marriage to Dorsey Gallagher other than the six children that resulted from this union. The circumstances that led to their combined willingness to place the care of their children in the hands of others (four of the children with Dorsey's aunt, Mary Gallagher; one child with another family; the youngest with the Washington DC Department of Social Services) is not fully understood. Her inability to provide for her children physically, emotionally and/or financially might be attributed to her response to childhood events over which she had no control as well as her failure to seek and/or find empowerment when she was most in need of it.

Laura died at 4:40 p.m. on 28 Sep 1975 at St. Luke's Presbyterian Hospital, Chicago IL of coronary heart disease. She was pronounced DOA. The death certificate notes an Earl Cameron, a friend, as the informant; a Dr. Gindi as the attending physician. Her residence at time of death was 1522 18th place, Chicago IL 60608. She was survived by a husband from whom she had been separated (but not divorced) for many years, and six children, four of whom had no clue as to her whereabouts at the time of her death. She is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen Park IL, in an unmarked grave.

JAMES LAWRENCE KNIGHTON was born to James and Harriet Tovey Knighton, 30 Oct. 1907, second child in a family that would number 12 children. The twins died; the others thrived to grow and raise an enormous posterity.

He was called Lawrence by his family to distinguish him from his father, but in later years his friends called him Jim, only the family sticking to "Lawrence."

He was born to a pioneer Latter Day Saint family, in Bountiful, Utah. He lived there, in an area of fruit trees, big gardens, family cow, and the usual healthy environment of that time. He was surrounded by his own family and Grandparents, many Aunts and Uncles and cousins by the dozens. So he was happy for he was always happy.

When he was 11 years old, his father decided to buy some land in Eastern Idaho and so the family moved there, --to snow, cold weather and probably a pretty rough life by our standards, but they all seemed to have loved it and he was happy there also.After serving a mission for the LDS Church in North Dakota, he returned home to marry pretty Miss LeOra Knudsen, and began to raise his own family. He worked for the Forest Service for some time, cruising timber, and learning to be a civil engineer. In later life, he took a government job with the Corps of Engineers and after some time living in Oregon, he settled with his family in Boise, Idaho, to help build Lucky Peak Dam and then to run it until he retired.

These are the statistics--here is the man. Totally dedicated to the Lord and in service to his fellow man. A man of honor, a family man, a friend to all. Good humored, especially loving children. He was involved in the Scout program for years (raising a family of 4 boys) and was on the Regional Scout Council. He was involved in flood control until he retired. He knew the latin term for every tree, knew what was safe to eat in the woods, and had a beautiful voice, being able to sing all parts. He sang with the Mormonaires Group for years. He never had an enemy. His family adored him. Discovering he had Alzheimer's Disease was a tremendous blow to all of us. To see that brilliant mind deteriorate is something like a nightmare.

I loved Jim with all my heart. He loved me. He adopted and loved all of my children. He loved the Lord. What more could one ask for?



The Queen's Back Door